I HAVE received the five thousand blue-duck coins1 you sent. The first of the five precepts is not to take life, and the first of the six paramitas is that of almsgiving. The ten good precepts, the two hundred and fifty precepts, the ten major precepts, and all the other rules of conduct begin with the prohibition against the taking of life.
Every being, from the highest sage on down to the smallest mosquito or gnat, holds life to be its most precious possession. To deprive a being of life is to commit the gravest kind of sin.
When the Thus Come One appeared in this world, he made compassion for living things his basis. And as an expression of compassion for life, to refrain from taking life and to provide sustenance for living beings are the most important precepts.
In providing another with sustenance, one obtains three kinds of benefit. First, one sustains ones own life. Second, one brings color to ones face. Third, one gains strength.
To sustain ones own life means to be born in the human or heavenly world and receive the karmic reward of long life. When one becomes a Buddha, one manifests oneself as the Thus Come One of the Dharma body, a body that is as vast as space.
Because one gains strength, having been born in the human or heavenly
world, one becomes a person of virtue and influence, attracting many followers. When one becomes a Buddha, one manifests oneself as the Thus Come One of the reward body, dwelling on a lotus pedestal where one shines like the full moon in a clear sky on the fifteenth night of the eighth month.
And because one brings color to ones face, having been born in the human or heavenly world, one acquires the thirty-two features and becomes as graceful and dignified as a lotus flower. When one becomes a Buddha, one displays oneself as the Thus Come One of the manifested body and comes to resemble Shakyamuni Buddha.
If we inquire into the origin of Mount Sumeru, we find that it began with a single speck of dust; and likewise, the great ocean began with a single drop of dew. One added to one becomes two, two becomes three, and so on to make ten, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand, or an asamkhya. Yet one is the mother of all.
As for the beginning of Buddhism in the country of Japan: After the seven reigns of the heavenly deities and the five reigns of the earthly deities, the hundred reigns of human sovereigns began, the first of whom was called Emperor Jimmu. In the time of Emperor Kimmei, the thirtieth sovereign